Introduction to the Space Environment

Course #PH2514

Est.imated Completion Time: 3 months


Plasma concepts. Solar structure and magnetic field, particle and electromagnetic emissions from the sun, the geomagnetic field, and the magnetosphere, radiation belts, structure and properties of the earth's upper atmosphere, ionosphere, implications of environmental factors for spacecraft design.

Included in degrees & certificates

  • 273


  • PH1322

Learning Outcomes

Students who successfully complete this course will:

  • Understand the main characteristics of the solar cycle, including how it is monitored and its effect on solar emissions and activity.
  • Describe and differentiate between different types of solar activity – specifically, flares, radio bursts, coronal mass ejections, and proton events.
  • Be able to describe the source and structure of the solar wind and its relation to space weather.
  • Describe the role of Earth’s magnetic field in determining the local space environment and calculate the magnitude of the field as a function of altitude and latitude using the simple dipole approximation.
  • Describe and differentiate between the K, Kp, ap, Ap, Dst, and AE magnetic indices.
  • Define, characterize, and locate key features of the magnetosphere, including the bow shock, magnetopause, magnetotail, plasmasphere, radiation belts, auroral oval, and polar cap.
  • Know the important constituents of the thermosphere and be able to calculate their density as a function of height using the hydrostatic equilibrium approximation.
  • Know the factors that affect satellite drag, including sources of environmental variability.
  • Identify the regions of the ionosphere and be able to describe key phenomena such as: the equatorial anomaly, equatorial scintillation, short-wave fade, polar cap absorption, and the aurora.
  • Use Snell’s law to demonstrate the relationship between electron density, angle of incidence, and signal frequency as it relates to the transmission and reflection of radio signals in the ionosphere.
  • Describe and differentiate between space environmental impacts to spacecraft exteriors including: MMOD damage, atomic oxygen and UV exposure, contamination, and surface charging.
  • Describe and differentiate between the effects of penetrating radiation on spacecraft components, including: single event upsets, total ionizing dose, and deep dielectric charging.
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Application Deadlines

  •  08 Jul 2024

    Fall Quarter applications due

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